M’sia to return 3,300 tonnes of waste to developed countries “without mercy”

Malaysians who are importing waste illegally into the country are called "traitors".

Matthias Ang | May 29, 2019 @ 03:58 pm


Following China’s ban on the import of plastic waste, more developing countries have taken action to avoid becoming a dumping ground.

Malaysia is also rejecting the trash from developed countries, vowing to return the garbage instead, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

On May 28, Malaysia’s Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeo Bee Yin announced that Malaysia will return around 3,300 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste to countries such as the U.S., UK, Canada and Australia.

Ramifications of China’s ban on plastic waste

China was the key importer of global waste for the past two decades, taking in half of the world’s plastic, metal and paper waste.

Since Dec. 31, 2017, China has stopped importing these recyclable waste to better tackle its environmental problem.

As a result, Malaysia and other developing countries in Southeast Asia fear becoming the next dumping ground for rich nations as the global waste gets diverted to them.

Between January and July, 2018, Malaysia took in 754,000 tonnes of plastic, a marked increase from taking in 450,000 tonnes in 2017 according to Reuters.

Waste diverted to Malaysia illegally

Several Chinese companies have allegedly relocated their operations to Malaysia, with some setting up illegal factories.

Local communities are concerned about the environmental and health hazards as highlighted by Yeo.

As such, Yeo said that China’s plastic ban had been an eye-opening moment for the world in demonstrating “that we have a huge garbage and recycling problem.”

With these illegal factories in Malaysia, contaminated, indiscriminate recyclables in a mix of nonrecyclable trash were entering the country in contravention of local and international environmental laws.

The New Straits Times reported that Yeo found maggots-infested plastic milk cartons, illegal waste wrapped in clean packaging as well as plenty of electronic waste in the 10 containers of supposedly plastic waste at Westports Malaysia.

These 10 containers will be returned to the countries of origin such as United States, Japan, Canada, Australia, China, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh.

Yeo also revealed that while citizens in the waste-exporting countries sort their recyclables, their efforts have gone south too with their recyclables being dumped indiscriminately in developing countries.

On specific statistics, Yeo cited an UK recycling company which had shipped more than 50,000 tonnes of plastic waste in about 1,000 containers to Malaysia for the past two years.

Yeo concluded, “Garbage like what you see just now is traded under the pretext of recycling.”

Malaysia strongly against illegal dumping

Taking a strong line, Yeo declared that trash from developed nations shipped to Malaysia will be returned “without mercy” as she said:

We urge the developed countries to review their management of plastic waste and stop shipping garbage out to developing countries. If they ship to Malaysia, we will return it back without mercy.”

She also called Malaysians who brought plastic waste into the country “traitors”.

According to New Straits Times, Yeo said, “Malaysia won’t continue to be a dumping ground for the developed nations and those responsible for destroying our ecosystem with these illegal activities are traitors.”

A total of 60 containers of 3,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste will be returned gradually.

Thus far, five containers have been sent back to Spain as of April 29 and the Department of Environment has inspected a total of 123 containers from several countries, including Singapore. 

She added that the importers will bear the costs of storing and shipping back the garbage with 14 days to complete the procedure of shipping them back.

Should they fail to comply, the government potentially confiscating their land and taking legal action against them.

According to The Straits Times, Malaysia has also taken steps to shutter 150 illegal plastic recycling factories since July 2018, suspend the import of plastic waste and tighten the license criteria for importing plastic waste for recycling.

Top image from Yeo Bee Yin Facebook


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